MORE than 20 life- saving defibrillators are to be installed around the county thanks to a surge in interest from an Oxford Mail-backed campaign.
Since we carried an ambulance boss’s appeal for more volunteer schemes, 23 communities have come forward to install the devices.
The units – which anyone can use to shock the heart back to life – are seen as crucial for rural areas, which ambulances take longer to get to.
They can save crucial minutes for victims of cardiac arrest, South Central Ambulance Service’s Dick Tracey has said.
Last month he appealed for help to boost defibrillator numbers from 120 to 320 by May so no-one is more than 10 minutes from one.
Divisional responder manager for SCAS Mr Tracey said: “The number of enquiries I’ve had has increased three-fold and I’m now getting about three per day.
“It’s been right across the board from individuals to community groups that are formed to raise money for defibrillators, to parish councils.
“Certainly, thanks to the Oxford Mail, the interest has risen. There’s a long way to go but it’s certainly a great start in the first month.”
Parish councils, community groups and individuals have come forward to pledge to raise cash for the devices, which cost £1,800 each.
This will allow the device to be placed in a secure box on a wall, which people can open by using a code given by 999 operators. The machines require no training and give voice instructions.
The chance of surviving a cardiac arrest falls by 10 per cent for every minute without help, Mr Tracey said.
He said: “The real battle after someone goes into cardiac arrest is time. People in a village will probably be able to collect the defibrillator before they arrive, particularly in rural areas, so it increases the chances of survival significantly.”
Among those who have come forward is Martin Johnson, 59, who runs Hendred Stores village shop in East Hendred, near Wantage.
He has started a campaign to raise funds for up to six defibrillators with events such as quizzes and curry nights.
Mr Johnson, who was fitted with a pacemaker two years ago because of a slow heartbeat, said: “If you had to run from one end of the village to the other it could be too late so I would like to see half a dozen.
“I saw the story in the Mail and that prompted me to contact Dick.”
Kay Shortland, 66, raised £5,700 for three defibrillators in Milton-under-Wychwood, West Oxfordshire, through events and grants.
The grandmother-of-two, whose stepfather James Bond died of a heart attack 34 years ago, said: “It’s giving people in remote areas more of a chance of survival.
“We’re 10 miles from Witney and the ambulance service can’t get to us as soon as someone with a defibrillator could.”
West Oxfordshire District Council has set aside £28,000 to match costs pound for pound in 31 parishes. It made the pledge after a £43,000 anonymous donation for 24 devices, meaning both pledges would cover all the district.
In Moulsford, near Wallingford, the parish council has raised cash for a defibrillator at the recreation ground pavilion. Chairman Miles Powell said: “We have a cricket team and a lot of people use the pavilion.”
Under the NHS Constitution, ambulances have to reach the most seriously-ill patients within eight minutes for 75 per cent of calls.
Latest figures, for April 1 to May 15 this year, show this was 92 per cent in Oxford but 52 per cent in rural West and South Oxfordshire.
In Cherwell the figure was 84 per cent and 70 per cent in Vale of White Horse.
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